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NCIS Review: Mike Franks' Swan Song

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From the opening scene, you knew this would be not just an unusual episode of NCIS, but a somber, dark and gut-wrenching installment that would leave viewers reeling.

The aptly-titled "Swan Song" began with Gibbs stoically standing in the rain, helplessly watching a body bag carted off. As promised, the victim was a major NCIS figure.

Even as the story unfolded in reverse, with dots connected throughout the night, the identity of the person ins the bag and the toll this loss took on Gibbs were obvious.

Gibbs and Franks

NCIS doesn't usually try methods such as having Mike (or the memories of Mike) talk to Gibbs throughout the case, hovering over his shoulder, as if he were really there.

For a time, of course, he was. But the Mike Franks we first saw last night spoke to Jethro from beyond the grave, shrouding the episode in both mystery and emotion.

If there were any doubts that Jethro's mentor was the victim, they were cleared up during Duck's autopsy. Gibbs was present, yet absent, like Mike in a different sense.

Perhaps the fact that it was so different made it all the more effective. Rather than having Franks killed as a shocker at the end, we were left wondering how and why.

It worked extremely well not only because many fans guessed Franks would be this week's victim, but because it set up a terrific "Swan Song" for this great character.

Like the old dog he referenced, Franks knew his time had come, and he went out in style, picking a fight the Port-to-Port Killer never saw coming and nearly winning it.

Mike looked noticeably pale and unwell, not to mention noticeably older, in human form than in Gibbs' mental images. You can't help but wonder if he was gravely ill.

That may also explain how Gibbs lives with what happened going forward. Had he not called Mike, he would be alive today ... or would he? Not if he were terminal.

Instead, perhaps Jethro offered the man who took him under his wing a fitting sendoff, and in a tangential way, broke open a case that flummoxed him on many levels.

That doesn't mean Mike's murder wasn't brutal to stomach for Probie or anyone else. For Gibbs, letting go of Franks would be like everyone else letting go of Gibbs.

The scene where the elevator opened and McGee was holding Abby just as Tony was with Ziva, and Tony telling them to "bring it in" for a group hug was powerful.

Given everything that's gone on - and is still going on - viewers probably felt they needed a hug too. After all, the monster who did this to Franks is still on the loose.

Franks' death became the latest chapter in the hunt for the P2P, who we now know by name (Jonas Cobb) and received a full bio on thanks to a one-eyed Trent Cort.

The shady CIA agent's role filled in a number of blanks.

Swan Song Photo

First, it explained the eyeball. It was his, which made sense, given the Company's propensity for gaining access to everything. More importantly, it legitimized the P2P.

Making viewers fear Cobb on a show in which murderers are hunted every week is a difficult task, but Cort's description and thoroughly disturbing videos did the job.

The P2P is a trained assassin, crafted by the CIA to do its "wet work" while remaining undercover as a run-of-the-mill serviceman. Only after his first kill, he went rogue.

After making a mockery of military hierarchy by slaying his first group of victims, the killer is now evolving, tracking the people tracking him. But Franks wasn't a target.

Cobb was conducting "research" on Gibbs, lurking inside NCIS and outside his home. Just as Gibbs and Vance study each other, the killer observes. He learns. He waits.

Interestingly, it was when Gibbs confronted Vance about their personal battles that he gained insight into why Cobb came to his house - and where he went next.

Franks forced Cobb into a kill-or-be-killed situation, but the P2P didn't want Gibbs. He wanted Barrett and her team members, baiting them into a terrifying trap.

Despite widespread animosity for E.J. and the new guys, you couldn't watch this and not feel awful. She walked right into this haunting, deadly trap and had no idea.

Will E.J. survive? It doesn't look good, but Gibbs and Vance are on the same page now. Jethro's running point, fueled by the demise of his mentor. It is ON next week.

Presumably because of its format, NCIS doesn't get much Emmy love, but that should change, because this was one of the most superbly written episodes of TV you'll see.

Weaving this complicated web in such compelling fashion, with precise attention to detail and continuity years in the making, is no easy task. Kudos to everyone involved.

I'm drained after watching, then writing about these events that evoked so much emotion and so many thoughts. It's hard to do them justice. So I turn it over to you:

What did you think of last night's NCIS? Discuss below!

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (1045 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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I don't understand why you killed off Mike Franks. I really cared about him and am confused as to why he was removed from the show. The NCIS team is like a family and now he is gone. I Really hope that you don't remove any more of the family that we all love as viewers and fans.

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Great show, even when favorites are killed off. We all miss Kate, Jenny and now Mike, but the show goes on. As for Vance, we're not supposed to like him. That;s just another interesting part of the show. Lighten up folks, it's ENTERTAINMENT.

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Althought Mikes death was tuff it was a fitting end for someone who walked face forward through life. The effort to take out the p2p killer and dying was more appealing than dying of cancer. When NCIS ends a character it is sometimes hard on the viewer but interesting to the the fan. This is one reason why I love this show'

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what was the music played during Mike's funeral?

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There was NO NEED to KILL OFF Mike Franks!!!!!! He is or WAS a very intricate part of the show. He was always there to help. Are you people writing the script going to kill or get rid of anymore???? You have a great show with a cast that works perfectly together, QUIT trying to ruin it. Those of us that watch the show every week look at them as family. Leave the FAMILY alone. By the way MIKE FRANKS WAS A VERY BIG PART OF THE NCIS FAMILY, he will be MISSED VERY MUCH!

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The Show is great and killing off Mike was NOT necessary but the show would be a lot better if you get rid of Vance,EJ and her team. You guys can never leave well enough alone. Vance also needs to be casted out of NCIS: LA and Hetty left to run the show. Get with it guys.

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I thought "Swan Song" was a really great episode, and I mean come on, we all knew they were going to kill off the new team, in some way or another. But did they have to kill Mike Franks? Why not kill of Vance who most of us hate. The character of Mike Franks will be sorely missed. I loved each episode he was in, and I fervently hope that he will now be seen as a ghost mentor for Gibbs. RIP Mike Franks.

Sue-ann

@ III -- I think it would be kind of hypocritical for Gibbs to say that there can be no dating on his team. He certainly "dated" Jenny Shepard when she was his partner in Europe. And it did not go badly, so I don't see why that would be the genesis of Rule #12 (Never date a co-worker. Season 1, episode 14, re-iterated in season 6, episode 24 and season 7, episode 14.) Additionally, McGee and Abby were dating when McGee first came over from his previous station. Gibbs did not lift a finger to stop them, and it would not have passed him by. He misses nothing. I may be wrong, but I think that Gibbs would let Tony and Ziva be together. It is not contrary to the rules of the actual NCIS. His principal objection to EJ seems to be that he does not trust her, and he does not want her to mess up Tony, who is finally starting to heal after the loss of Jeanne and the reconciliation with his father. That is just my opinion, though.

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FOR all the TIVA fans out there... for there to be a TIVA either Tony or Ziva have to leave the team. Gibbs would never allow the two of them to stay on the team if they were "seeing" each other romantically. Just look at the fit between him and Tony a few weeks ago over EJ, and shes on a different team

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Please no more loss of characters that are a part of the integrity of the story such as Mike Franks! Bring him back!

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